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Oh Shiney!

In order for a glow stick to shine it must be broken on the inside.

There are some things in life I’d just as soon not know. Knowing it just hurts  I have friends who know this fact even more than me.  I guarantee they would just as soon not know.  But knowing makes you all the deeper, all the more real, all the more able to be used, all the more stronger.  I bring three pieces of evidence to the courtroom of the public opinion today:

1) Shari Smith.  2 days before her high school graduation, her father, the pastor of the church in their town, was looking out of the window of his study  as his daughter drove up their driveway, get out of the car and check the mail.  He went back to studying.  A few moments later, he looked up again to see her car still in the driveway with the door open, and car running, but she was gone.  To make a long story short, she was abducted, raped, and murdered by Larry Gene Bell.  This case has been featured on TV in both Forensic Files and The FBI Files.  Before her life was taken from her, her killer gave her a choice in how to die, and then had her write her last will and testament.  What would you write?  If you knew you were about to die?  What would you want people to know?  Here is what she wrote, as recorded on her sister’s website:

I love you Mommy, Daddy, Robert, Dawn & Richard (her boyfriend) and everyone else and all other friends and relatives. I’ll be with my Father now, so please, please don’t worry.  Just remember my witty personality & great special times we all shared together.  Please don’t even let this ruin your lives, just keep living one day at a time for Jesus.  Some good will come out of this.  My thoughts will always be with you & in you.  Casket closed.

(After a personal note to Richard, Shari continues.) Mom, Dad, Robert & Dawn, there’s so much I want to say that I should have said before now.  I love y’all! I know ya’ll love me and will miss me very much, but if ya’ll stick together like we always did – ya’ll can do it! Please do not become hard or upset.  “Every thing works out for the good of those that love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). (http://www.dawnsmithjordan.com/article_ROC.php)

Incredible words and perspective for an innocent 18-year-old girl about to die.  I want to focus on her family.  What are they to believe?  How is dad to go on pastoring his church?  Believe me, I know I am treading on holy ground here, and I do not look at any of this flippantly – I have the utmost of respect for this family.  They press on because God gives the grace and the power to do so.  They did not give up, nor did they shrink back.  Could God have prevented this all?  You bet!  Here is where I lose a lot of people:  God had bigger things in store that day, and in the days to follow.  The death of this beautiful young lady has touched more people than her life ever could  have.  God maximized her life through her death.  Yet in this plan, her family would hurt and have to suffer much pain.  However, unless we are broken, we cannot shine His glory.  His glory brings healing to people, and it transforms us all if we let it.  I, for one, choose to not let her death be in vain.

2.  Maria Chapman.  I was surfing through YouTube trying to find a certain song when my favorite musician showed up on James Robison’s show.  I watched it with tears streaming down my face.  Here is the link to the episode:  http://lifetoday.tv/swf/2010/03/100304.htm.  Steven Curtis Chapman is a man among men.  Who can lose his daughter and press on to serve God and actually write and sing songs about it without breaking down in tears every time?  Steven is every bit of a dad I would ever hope to be – a man of God, and accomplished musician.  Yet, I again would say that God’s plan included pain, that He would heal, but was necessary for the furtherance of His glory and to bring people to Him in such a way that could never have happened through Maria’s life.  He maximized her life through her death.  But in the process, her family hurt.-But unless we are broken inside, we cannot shine.  God’s plan was for HIS glory to be shown that day and for many millions of people following the story to be touched and drawn to Him.  I would not wish the story to be replicated in anybody’s life.  I understand the pain – from a distance.  Again, I choose to let her death not be in vain.

3. Eva.  I have a dear friend who suffered the loss of her mother years ago to suicide.  A tragic loss.  Made more tragic by the consistent impact it has had on those this mother left behind – one of those people being my friend whom I’ll call Eva.  Eva also is a mother, who is trying to minimize the damage of such an act to her children – who loved their grandmother.  Eva has struggled with this suicide for years now since it happened.  Just a few days ago she received a message from a fiend of hers who had battled depression for years.  Little did Eva know that her friend had also seriously considered suicide.  But her friend chose not to.  Why?  because she saw the damage it caused Eva’s family, and she in no way wanted to perpetuate this legacy to her children and loved ones, so she is alive today, and after years of Eva struggling to know “why” finally got at least one reason, so another entire family would be torn up. We cannot shine until we are broken inside.

There are varying levels of brokeness.  Joseph struggled under great brokeness after his own brothers left him for dead in a pit.  Yet, years later he would again see those same brothers.  Would he exact revenge?  Should he?  I know he struggled with it, yet scripture reveals this mighty truth that Joseph told his brothers:

 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.   Genesis 50:19-20

It is really muddy waters when a person tries to declare if God did something or not.  I am not implying God caused harm to any of the people mentioned above.  I do know this:  He could have prevented it, but chose not to.  WHy?  Don’t know, except this is part of it:  the 50:20 principle.  Genesis 50:20.  A little girl about to be murdered also said the same thing when she wrote Romans 8:28 in her last will and testament.

Let me close with this story:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. John 9:1-7

If you have pain today, submit it to Jesus.  He desires to heal it, but He also wants to use it.  He will meet you there.  Invite the Holy Spirit into the pain and into the source of the pain.   This same Jesus who suffered even to death Himself, “also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6)

Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the treasure of the Good News in them. This shows that the superior power of this treasure belongs to God and doesn’t come from us….God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and we know that God will also raise us with Jesus….All these things are for you. And so the grace of God that is being given to more and more people will bring increasing thanks to God for his glory. So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.  We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.
18  We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

To those who have suffered loss, my deepest condolences go to you.  If you will email me, I would like to pray for you in your loss that Jesus will help you make sense of it all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ4hgnfhRvY

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What Day Is It?

Today

As Long As It Is Called Today

The men had all lined up to go back to their cells.  Men had gotten baptized that morning in the Coffield Prison in Tennessee Colony, Texas.  Largest prison in Texas with over 5,000 men in it.  About 300 of them had come forward that morning for prayer and ministry. Their desire is to reach out to their fellow inmates.  Some came for prayer.  Some were broken-hearted about family issues back home, that they can do nothing about.  Some needed to give their lives to Jesus, and came forward to do just that.  I had just spoken on the real reason Jesus came to Earth – not to change our behavior (although that tends to happen when we walk with Him!), and not to make bad people good (although that tends to happen as well!)…but to give dead people life.  That is what He Himself told us!

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

My brother in ministry, Leonard, had given the altar call.  Who’da thought that some white kid born into a house of poverty in a trailer house in Iowa and a black kid raised in inner city Cincinnati by his grandma would one day meet and become good friends, and then become co-laborers in ministry both at the large Texas high school where they worked and the prison where they frequented. God is awesome like that!

Anyway, the men  who were baptized had all gotten their certificates of baptism as they lined up to return to their cells.  I saw one man – in his late 50s – to the side with tears streaming down his face.  I walked over to him as he was looking at his certificate of baptism.  I asked him if everything was okay.  They were tears of joy.  He told me that he had NEVER been recognized for anything (positive) in his life – not at school, not at church, not on the job, not in his community, not by his mom or dad growing up – until today.  He had just received a certificate of baptism.  Not only was it recognition, but he viewed it as coming from God.  God approved of him.  It overwhelmed him, and he could hardly contain it.  Late 50s.  Prison.

On the 2 hour drive home I could not shake that experience. Leonard and I spoke about it.  A verse came to my mind from Hebrews.

“Instead, continue to encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

I wondered if that man may have been steered from prison had homebody in his life found goodness in him, or helped him find what he was good at, and spoke into his life.  I’ll bet so!

Then my mind wandered to those people God has placed into my life.  Last time I looked at a calendar, today was still called “Today,” and scripture is quite clear!  As long as it is called “Today,” I am to be an encourager.  Kids need it!  Adults need it!  People who work under you need it!  Perfect strangers need it.

Today, my challenge to you is simple:  find somebody to encourage, and tell them how you see God in them, or tell them how something they did really blessed you, or tell them that you just appreciate them and are thankful they are in your life.  I have this folder in a drawer that is full of cards of appreciation or thanks that people have given me over the years.  I read them when I need to be reminded from time to time that I am appreciated. But I have found that I am not alone in this!  I know everybody has the same need.  The world has a way of wearing us down.  God wants us to build each other up!

You may commence to encouragin’!

Finished…?

USS Shaw Exploding in Pearl Harbor Attack

 I was amazed at this picture of destruction in Pearl Harbor as I am every year at this time.  Agony, burning, explosions, death, destruction, mayhem….scars.  But here is what is most interesting:  this ship – the USS Shaw – was actually repaired and served in the rest of WW 2 in the Pacific.  When I first saw the picture, I thought, “Wow – that ship is done for! Can’t rebuild that one!!”  And that is what the enemy would like for us to believe as well for our own lives!  In spite of the Hope of Glory, if satan can convince US that there is no hope of rebuilding, that we are done-for, and to just give up, then he wins!  Remember, satan’s words are all lies.  Smoke and mirrors!!  Jesus told us that in John 8:44 –

“Why is my language [what I say] not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning…there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Wow!!  Jesus said that to the religious leaders of that day!  Makes me wonder what religious leaders I should be following today?  I guess those who espouse and worship Jesus as Savior and Lord are a pretty good bet – which is what THOSE religious leaders did NOT do!  So we must keep that in mind as we hear satan’s whispers in our ears and heart.  Lies like, “You have REALLY messed up now!  Why bother!  You can never be fully used of God now!!” or how about this one that resonates with many young people, “You were born out-of-wedlock – see!  You are not even supposed to be here!  You are an ACCIDENT!  You need to exit so that this place can be put back into the correct balance…”  Or how about this one – “Yes God loves people – but not you.  You are a screw up!  You have pissed Him off so many times now that He is done with you!  You might just as well give in and do what you want – have all the fun now cuz when you die, it is all going to be over!”  [If you want answers to those lies or any of the millions of others, please write to me so I can help you know the truth!]

So, a lie implies that the opposite of what the liar said is actually what is true.  So, if we are told we are an accident, then we must NOT be!  The Bible makes that clear!  The truth is in Psalm 139:13-15 –

“…For you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works;  my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,  intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance;  in your book were written, every one of them,  the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them…”

There is no special “condition” or “exception” in that statement!   We cannot even be here without God’s permission!   If He made you, then you must NOT be an accident.  If He formed you, then who and how you are when you are redeemed and set free is who and how He designed and intended you to be.  If we hear the lie, “You have really done it now, there is no hope for you.  God is so mad at you – He is just done with you!  Give it up!”  Then try this on for size:

Romans 5:20, ” …where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

Here is what is awesome about that verse:  the word “increased” and “abounded” are from the same root word in the Greek language – which is what this passage was originally written in.  It is the word ἐπλεόνασεν, transliterated as “epleonasen”  which means  “increase, make increase, grow.”  The Word “increase” is merely that basic word.  But when God has Paul write the word “abounded” – He has Paul use another word: ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν, which when transliterated is hypereperisseusen (again same root word, but with a prefix on the front of it!) which means “be very abundant, cause to abound greatly.”  So the idea is “You sinned?  Okay, Wll my grace is bigger than your sin!  So get over it!  Press onward!”

Are you getting the picture of God’s heart?  It doesn’t matter what you do.  God’s grace will always be even more abundant than our screw up. God is NOT done with us!  HE promised that!  Philippians 1:6 tells us that

“…And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ…”

Let me leave you with this final word.  One of my favorite passages in 2 Corinthians 4 (which is actually Paul’s 4th letter to Corinth, not his 2nd as many think).  I have learned that God’s economy is always above and separate from whatever is happening in this world.  If Greece is bankrupt, God’s economy is flourishing.  If Washington is corrupt, God’s economy is always full of integrity.  God’s ways are simply above and beyond our ways (what did Buzz Lightyear say…”to infinity and beyond!”).  So what we see with our limited eyes is not the final word – like ships exploding and burning.  Because our eyes cannot see the God of the universe at work behind the scenes…but we know He is there…He tells us He is!  Look at 2 Corinthians 4:7- 11

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Where Jesus is, there is Life.  Even in the midst of death and destruction, sin and filth, violence and mayhem – Jesus brings healing, peace, life, grace, forgiveness, order, and purpose.  God never promised a life without pain, or alife without trouble.  But He DID promise safe delivery OUT OF them! 

“…Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all…” (Psalm 34:19 ESV)

 That is why a few verses later we are told where to focus our thoughts and attentions:

“…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

If you are hurting, pray and invite the “unseen” God – the Holy Spirit into your hurt.  Invite Jesus there.  Take Him back to the source of that hurt and pain.  Invite Him there.  He actually WAS there in real life, but invite Him there in your memory and in your spirit.  Ask Him to bring healing, peace, life, grace, forgiveness, order, and purpose in those memories, thoughts, or experiences.  He is so faithfully loving and gentle.   And because that’s how God is, like the USS Shaw, you WILL sail again!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ4hgnfhRvY

(The above song was written by Steven Curtis Chapman when he lost his daughter…)

By the way, want “the rest of the story”?  Here is what happened to the USS Shaw (Copied from the US Naval historical records as recorded at http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-s/dd373.htm):

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Shawwas in drydock at the Navy Yard there. Enemy bombs set her afire and her forward magazines exploded, severing her bow and wrecking her bridge area.

However, Shaw‘s midships and stern portions were still essentially intact. Following temporary repairs at Pearl Harbor, in February 1942 she went to the Mare Island Navy Yard for a new bow and general overhaul. When this work was completed in late June 1942, Shaw spent several months in training and convoy escort duties. Sent to the South Pacific in October 1942, she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands late in that month. While supporting the Guadalcanal Campaign, she ran aground at New Caledonia on 10 January 1943, requiring a trip to Pearl Harbor for extensive repairs.

Shaw returned to the war zone in October 1943 and took part in operations around New Guinea and New Britain. She was hit in an air attack off Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943. After repair of that damage, she operated in the Central Pacific, including participation in the invasion of Guam. From October 1944 into 1945, Shaw escorted Western Pacific convoys and help liberate Luzon and other parts of the Philippines. When the Pacific war ended in August 1945, Shaw had just completed another overhaul, including major enhancement of her anti-aircraft armament. However, she was too old for retention in the post-war fleet and was sent to the U.S. east coast for inactivation.

Most would have thought that the Shaw was done for at the first attack.  But because of her designer she was repaired and went on to endure several more major catastrophies, and was still used in the American naval service!  We too are still useful to God in His plan.  NEVER give up!

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.  (Romans 11:29 ESV)

Vapor and Bars

The Streetsweepers Logo

I have had the distinct pleasure and honor these past two years of visiting the Coffield prison in Tenessee Colony, Texas.  I’ll never forget the first time I went.  An inmate named Mickie thought he’d play a joke on the “new guy” and start to tell me about his dream he had been having about eating chickens.  He made it out to be some demonic dream and then at the pinnacle of the joke he blew some white feathers he had in his hand.  His intent was to try to scare me – maybe to see what I am made out of.  I was a bit taken back, but what he did not know is that I am a high school assistant principal whose ability to be scared of most anything has been very much squashed, although that one was close!  We all got a good laugh out of it.  Mickie, as it turns out is a very Godly man, and a humble servant of Jesus.  He is an elder of the church there at Coffield.  Truly a blessing, and I am honored to call him a friend.  While I am still looking for an opportunity to “return his favor,” I am limited as to what will pass through the search upon entering the prison.

Streetsweeper Artwork

When I was done speaking that day, a special group of men stayed behind and invited me to join them.  This was a group of approximately 6-8 men who call themselves the “Streetsweepers.”  They are a group of devoted Christ-followers who desire to work with the youth of our nation to try to turn back those who are wayward.  They each have written their testimonies, and live a life in prison that would make many free people look less than upstanding – including me!  They have daily quiet times, go to their prison jobs and work with excellence, share Christ in a loving way, disciple new followers, and help new inmates get adjusted.  They are truly broken, humbled, and Christlike men.  Why did they want to talk to me?  They found out, after my introduction to the 600 men or so at the Chapel service, that I was a high school assistant principal, and they wanted my help in getting the gospel of Jesus out through their testimonies.  I got really excited.  Their leader was a man named Robert Garland.  He was also the leader of the elders, and the leader of the church there at Coffield.  At the age of 41 he had spent 24 years of his life behind bars.  But in talking to him, you would think you were talking to a professional, high ranking business man.  His demeanor was calm and mature, but valued you as a person.  When he spoke in the Chapel to get the men quiet, they listened.  Tall and lanky, this man had the makings of a great leader and communicator.  I grew close to Robert.  He recently made parole after 24 years in prison, which means that he will be released in a few months – probably December.  I rejoiced that he will finally be able to live out Jesus to the world.  He already has several speaking engagements lined up across the US to share his testimony in schools and churches.

James 4:13-16, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say,”If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

Robert actually mailed me his brochure he had developed for the Streetsweepers in the hopes that my technology skills could make it shine.  It has well-crafted testimonies and artwork by the prisoners.  Very nice indeed!  I told him I would work on it.  The picture above is a part of his Streetsweeper work – drawn by one of our brothers in Jesus.  I went again to visit Coffield this past Friday.  Robert Garland died on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 – three weeks prior to my seeing him again.  He was two months away from freedom – after 24 years of prison.  Yet he is freer and richer now than anybody on this planet.  His Lord and Maker gave him an even higher parole.  God invited Robert to His house for dinner – Word has it they were throwing a big feast.  Robert had made plans to do such and such – like we all do.  He stood up one day, had a brain aneurism, and fell over – dead.  Life truly is a vapor.  He had just led a white supremist gang member – for security reasons I will call him Vinny – to the Lord, and had been discipling him these past few months.  I had the pleasure of meeting this man and hearing his testimony last week – Jesus has truly transformed his anger into joy and peace.  He is going to take Robert’s place, Lord willing.  This once very angry man had tears in his eyes when he spoke of Robert and the work Robert did in the lives of the men in that prison.

Coffield Unit, Tenessee Colony, TX

Today, we remember Robert Garland, and all prisoners who know Jesus and are marked by His blood, mercy and grace.  Robert had no immediate family – his parents died when he was a child, so he never had visitors in prison except those who knew his ministry and who came to see him from churches.  Because he had no money and no family, his body was buried in the Huntsville Prison Cemetary – but it is just an empty shell of a body.   Robert is currently at the feet of his Lord and Savior Jesus, celebrating with all of his heart.  Poor and rejected by this world’s standards, he was truly rich in Jesus and stored up major treasure in heaven.

The closing of his last letter to me:

Notice his excitement about his parole being granted...

Hebrews 13:1-3, Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

I challenge those who read this today to become a pen pal with a prisoner.  Maybe even go visit one or two on a regular basis – whatever regular means to you.  Perhaps every other month.  There are state and federal prisons, county jails and city jails.   There are men and women behind bars, and all of them need a mentor or at least a real friend who will walk the distance with them.  They don’t need a judge, they have already seen one!  They don’t need condemnation, they are already in the middle of it!  They need the grace and mercy of Jesus and hope that there is a better life.  That is what Jesus does for us – we who are prisoners to our own addictions, worries, struggles, sins, and besetting life patterns – he walks beside us as a friend helping and empowering those who are willing to change their lives, giving us the Hope of a better life coming.

This is a link to a movie night our church gave to the men complete with bags of popcorn.  They absolutely loved it!  (yes, each man in this chapel signed a release for them to be photographed – it took over 2 hours to get them all signed in so they could take their seats!)  Be blessed!

http://animoto.com/play/ZndInhAMgyABCnz0yD3Z4g

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Momma Kitty

Trust took 3 years to get here!

We had this stray cat come around our house a few years ago that was obviously starving…skin and bones.  Many people hate cats – especially stray cats.  They try to kill them, shoot them, poison them, etc.  Basically stray cats are objects of peoples’ wrath.  We set food out for it and it ate it.  All of it.  Quickly.  As this became a daily ritual I decided to see if I could touch it – it was skin and bones, but it had a beautiful coat.  I leaned around the corner of our garage where we had its food and scratched the back of its neck as it ate.  She  pulled away for a quick second, but then she resumed eating.  Her need for food overruled her perceived need for running away from this stranger who was touching her.  Over time, she grew used to our scratching her neck while she ate.  We were concerned that she would become pregnant – which would not be ideal for a litter of kittens in this situation.  Since she would never let us touch if she was not eating, let alone pick her up, we trapped her.  We took her to a veterinarian who did charity “fixes” on stray cats.   We were too late – she was “with kittens.”  The doc took the kittens, and then de-wormed her, de-fleaed her, and then, interestingly, when the vet was done, he clipped one of her ears as a sign to Animal Control that it was a stray cat who had been fixed so that they would not pick “her strayness” up to euthanize her.

We decided that after all of this effort, we would take her home and let her become our second “indoor cat.”  We called her momma kitty.  This is because the other kitty we had at home was still a kitten – dropped off at our front door.  Momma kitty, though she had no kittens, would still lactate for a while.  Oddly enough, they became “mother and daughter” and younger kitty actually nursed from momma kitty.   Funny how God even cares for and meets the needs of two cats!

I was curious to know if she would ever warm up to us.  My first few attempts to try to pet  her were met with rejection.  I did not want to scare her, so I just left her be.  The day came when she rubbed against my leg like cats do.  I reached down to scratch her neck like the old days, and she let me.  Progress!  I could not, however, pick her up as her claws would dig in and she would be gone!  She really liked being scratched behind the neck.  She especially liked when I scratched her clipped ear.  It seemed almost euphoric to her.  If I ignored her when she rubbed against my legs for her daily scratch, she would meow.

After several weeks, I tried something.  I totally ignored her.  After several minutes of her trying to get my attention, she jumped on the edge of the couch next to me to meow.  I looked at her and told (as if she could understand me!) “Look, if you want me to scratch your neck, then I want some reciprocity!”  She actually walked over to my lap and let me scratch her neck while on my lap.  That was over two years ago.  Now it is a daily routine where I come home, sit in the easy chair, and she jumps up on my lap and I scratch her neck, her ears, and then she rolls over and I scratch her belly.  She lets me hold her and even turn her upside down like holding a baby – but she can only take that for so long!  Amazing how far her trust has come – but it has taken 3-4 years!

God is like that too.  He doesn’t rush us.  He is patient.

Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…”

Like Momma Kitty had her ear clipped to show the world that she was different, God put His mark in us to show the world that we, too,  are different:

Ephesians 1:12-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

His grace is awesome!  His grace has two parts. 1) the transfer part, and 2) the transform part.   He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness where we were, by nature, objects of wrath just like momma kitty was before she came to our house.  In the kingdom of darkness, things were not going so well for us….

Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

To be clear, we were not objects of God’s wrath, we were objects of Satan’s wrath.  The author of abuse was loving what he was doing to us!  Now the second part of grace is the transformational part.  This is the part we tend to not like.  Change takes work.  We are used to our habits!  Our depression was familiar to us!  Our anger was a nice fixture on our walls!  Living in the shadows was fun!  Nobody told us what to do!  (Really?)  But God loves us too much to leave us that way!   We are transformed from what the world wanted us to be, to what God created and redeemed us to be.  Our job is to work that transformational grace out into all parts of our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Philippians 2:12,  “Therefore, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Ephesians 4:20-24, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Go in His transformational grace this day!  Stop being an object of wrath, and join a new Kingdom!  If you would like to know how, just contact me!